International Reggae Day 2015 | A Celebration of Global Reggae Culture
International Reggae Day was celebrated by several different nations such as Jamaica, India, Spain, Chile, Sweden and the United States. It was the 21st staging of the event which saw more than 5 capital cities participating by hosting various activities surrounding the appreciation for Reggae music and culture.
In Kingston, Jamaica the birthplace of the genre a conference was held dedicated to discussing the many issues affecting the reggae industry today. Topics such as Global Market and Digital Trends, Content Challenges and Distribution Strategies, Jamaica’s Vinyl Story and the Birth of the Sound System were just a few. Judging from the trends and the direction the genre has been heading for the last 21 years, the conference sought to provide insight, knowledge and advice to the public from industry experts such as David Stopps, Pat Meschino, Cleevie Browne and Cordell Green.
As much as it was a celebration there were many concerns brought forth as to the state of the genre. Gussie Clarke owner and operator at Anchor Recording Studios outlined one concern by saying, “What is currently happening is some people are taking the worst of us and imposing it upon us as if it’s the best of us, if we are not careful our music might become more splintered and lose its authenticity,” he said.
Industry heads based in Jamaica have blamed the decline of the genre locally on many factors, one popular factor is ‘payola’. This claim is the single most damaging force in the reggae movement as local media personnel are easily swayed into highlighting poorly produced and arranged tracks over quality produced music for a small fee. A bubble is then created due to the over exposure locally, creating a space for musicians across the globe to practice and master the sound and message that was once unique to Jamaica.
Cleevie Browne from the award winning producing duo Steelie & Cleevie presented under the topic of The Impact of Technology on Jamaican Music. During his presentation Cleevie made reference to the issue of reggae audio samples not made by the genre creators being packaged and sold across the globe. “It’s only sad to me that we haven’t taken on that task ourselves by getting our technical experiences together and developing, packaging our own unique Jamaican sounds and samples like our reggae bass and reggae drums. Instead we find this is coming back to us via external sources, and this could benefit us economically by selling it to people who are interested in our sound.”
Despite the many concerns, information, advice and food for thought, the core underlying factor was not hard to miss. Indigenous practitioners should better position themselves to dominate international reggae charts, they should produce quality music as well as learn to increase earning power by taking advantage of technology/media trends. But before these things become reality Jamaica and Jamaicans need to commit themselves by becoming interested in preserving their cultural legacy and acknowledge that we are the center of the world. All eyes on us.
words and images by Ryan Hohn for yardreel